Category: Architecture & Design

Architectural projects around the world that reflect my values in design and that I seek inspiration from

the village in the city

“It frequently occurs in the growth of cities that villages are absorbed into the fabric of that city. But what are the consequences of this? How far and how do these villages become part of the overall fabric of the city? How does this affect the village, and what is the effect on the wider city?”

Excerpt from ‘Do Villages Shape Our Cities?’ – Wafa Al Ghatam.

 

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The force is strong with a title like that.

Remember how I mentioned in my previous post that I ‘briefly’ popped by Adliya with my cousins? It was the the third day of my trip and luckily this exhibition was on at the Al Riwaq Art Space. Imagine my excitement when I saw it was the result of research by a female Arab architect! That’s how I met Wafa – approachable, friendly and a creative. I couldn’t engage her for long that first time as she was about to be interviewed for a magazine/ television station so we exchanged contacts and agreed to be in touch.

With two days to the end of my trip, I reached out to her with the intention of both enjoying the gallery a little more, and interviewing Wafa for the blog. I had finally found a female architect from a similar cultural background as myself whom I could look up to, and from a quick Google search of her name, her credentials left me not only inspired, but enthusiastic too – like maybe I stand a chance at being not only good, but great at something too, you know? We agreed to meet at 4 pm at the Art Space on the evening before I left back for Nairobi to have a chat.

The phrase, ‘The Village In The City’, was first coined in a book by Nicholas Taylor in 1973, explains Wafa. Most of the time, the projects architects get involved in tend to be consumed only by a select few – those in the construction industry, professors, fellow architects or the client. Having an exhibition as such was meant to demystify and simplify the results of her research in such a manner that anyone would be interested to not only understand but also ask more questions about what they see. It’s meant to be engaging to the public. In summary, it is a study on how the growth of the city (Manama) has affected the villages, taking Muharraq as an example.

We spent about an hour discussing different things – from her entire research (in summary of course), and then onto women in architecture and what her advice would be to a recent graduate like myself. ‘Practice for about one or two years, and then you could proceed to further your studies’. At this point, Maryam joins the conversation. She’s an architect too, now doing her masters in London. ‘These days, students finish their Bachelors and want to go straight into doing their Masters. But how can you do your Masters without even knowing what to do, or what you like?’ she adds. My interaction with Wafa was more of a discussion than an interview, so towards the end of our discussion we walked around the exhibition to understand her thought process behind the items on display, and for me to take pictures of course.

Children, women, men, tourists like myself may walk into the space and view the printed images, text boards and even a plywood physical model. ‘The children love the model most,’ she says. I can see why, this laser cut technology has been around for a couple of years and is just beginning to grow in the Kenyan context as well. Upstairs, a cutout of the city map is placed on the ceiling and backlit from above creating an interesting play of shadows on the walls and floor. ‘What was the concept behind this piece?’ I ask Wafa. ‘In the shadow of the city,’ she responds.

‘Have you been to Muharraq?’ she asks.
‘Not really, I just drove by and my cousin pointed it out to me,’ I respond.
‘Would you like to go? I can take you there briefly. It’s fascinating how they live in their village. I trained some of my students to help me with the research and each one was stationed at a place so they helped me observe the patterns. The women especially are interesting subjects – within the village they can walk around in their ordinary clothes but once they leave their village, it’s no longer home territory so they wear their traditional abaya‘, she explains.

We left the gallery and drove by Bab al Bahrain, and since I’d never been, she parked her Jeep on the side street and walked me through the streets, explaining how they were planned, the whole while it being a discussion. I added that it feels like the streets in the coast of Kenya, Mombasa. We got to walk through Little India as well, an Indian neighborhood and briefly observed their patterns and how the spaces were planned. I got to buy a few souvenirs, and at this point my uncle called me to be back home so we couldn’t go to Muharraq.

We talked about a lot, but I remember asking her if there were a few things I could take from our conversation what would it be?

  1. Travel. You not only get to see and experience new places, but even grow as an individual through interacting with different people. This is a sentiment even Urko Sanchez conveyed to me when I interviewed him when writing my thesis.
  2. Ask questions. It’s always better to engage in open-minded discussions and not just take every information as truth, even though it may be factual. Make it a habit to understand the reasoning behind information you come across, make it a discussion and not a ‘lecture’.
  3. Experience in your chosen field is very important before pursuing further studies. If an opportunity does arise however, take it but get involved in practice too on the side. Be a lecturer’s assistant or get a part time job. The important thing is to always grow your skillset and gain experience.

In other news, the BAKE Awards gala took place last night 🙂
We didn’t win the title for Best Travel Blog this year but I’d just like to say a big thank you to all my readers! All those who nominated me, and voted for me. The nomination was such a huge affirmation to me, and I’m so grateful because either way I left the gala even more ambitious and positive as I would have if I won the award 🙂

Love and good vibes ❤

happy place

I’d like to share a few night time pictures of my bedroom.

room

I’ll share some day time pictures some day, soon 🙂

  1. My mum got the chair from an Iranian exhibition about fifteen years ago (bought as a set which she later gave away and kept only two pieces).
  2. The desk lamp was a gift.
  3. My friend went to Paris and got me this Picasso sketching pencil from the Center Pompidou, it also came with a bookmark. Such a thoughtful gift, I sketch and paint a lot so I like to have it close to me just to dream and visualize 🙂 I also like to keep my passport close by just so that I feel like I’m going to travel soon 😀
  4. I like to collect random pieces of ‘memories’ like polished stones or this wheat strand from when I first went to Timau.
  5. I love to light candles at night, helps me see the world through dreamy warm light 🙂
  6. I had my desk made out of my mum’s old pink bed (some of you may have seen it on my Instagram some time last year) then painted it white because my room has an all white theme at the moment. I’d like to do the same to my wardrobe and storage units, that is, paint them white and probably have a distressed finish.

Designing furniture has always been a dream of mine. I have a deep respect and profound admiration for architects whose exploration and passion for design transcend into other fields, such as furniture design.

I admire the work of Zaha Hadid, in my humble opinion her work seems to have a certain spontaneous, classic yet eclectic feel. I’d probably collect a single piece from her work. But I admire the simplicity and universal appeal of simple yet detailed and well thought out Scandinavian designs. Finn Jhul, Mies van der Rohe, Charles and Ray Eames, just to name a few, were successful at creating timeless classics. I aspire to be that great of an architect and designer one day.

What immense satisfaction one must feel to design a piece to their own specifications and preference. I hope to explore this side of my creativity. Just to go off tangent as I usually do, as a creative do you sometimes worry that ideas will run out? Or that everything has been done already? I mean, how much more creativity can one put into the design of a chair? Or table? I try to train my mind to see things differently, and see the opportunity for growth in every situation. I will admire the next designer’s work, question what I like about the design, draw some lessons – but will always want to have something that is my own. My way, you know?

What are your dreams? Just start, today. However small, start building towards your bigger dreams. One day at a time 🙂

this is where i work

I’ve had a long, tiring – but rewarding – day and with only enough energy to edit these pictures, my brain is dead and I just need to shut down. Lol.

A few of you may know that after getting my first degree (Bachelor of Architectural Studies B. As), I took a gap year and worked at a firm called Morphosis for close to a year (okay not really, but 8 months in students’ time is close to a year). Back then, our offices were quite modest – a three bedroom house repurposed into an office (there is a word for that but I can’t really get my thoughts together at this hour). It was great in it’s own way, very intimate, and we made some priceless memories there.

However, I must say I was very excited knowing that the firm moved and I’d be working in this contemporary masterpiece. I mean, in the Kenyan context this building is kind of a big deal. Apparently, it’s not even completely done yet! I’ll be sure to post updated pictures once the interiors are done. I’ll let the pictures to the rest of the talking as I go snooze, I have to go to work in the morning these days.

Ciao!

office

office2

office-3sunset

PS. I also get to enjoy beautiful sunsets every so often. It’s still quite sparse out here, and I’m loving it.

PSPS. I took these photos on my phone, and edited on Snapseed then VSCO. I need to get Lightroom so I can start experimenting with that too.

#okaybye